by Lang Whitaker

Germany vs. United States
August 30, 2006

• Looking at the ref’s names, there don’t appear to be any American or German refs. Just putting that out there.

• Elton Brand has replaced Dwight Howard in Team USA’s starting lineup. Who would have ever thought Team USA would start two former Duke players? And five years ago, who would’ve believed Team USA would start two Dukies and Grant Hill wouldn’t be one of them?

• On Team USA’s first possession, Dirk is whistled for a foul while playing zone defense against the always dangerous Shane Battier. 2-1, Germany.

• Ademola Okulaja for two for Germany, and it’s like we’re back down on Tobacco Road.

• LeBron attacks the German zone by launching an ill-advised three over the top of it, which he sinks to tie the game at 4. Then Chris Paul picks a steal and Bron flushes home his miss.

• Dirk grabs a rebound, dribbles the ball upcourt and passes it hard off the ad boards on the sideline.

• LeBron misses another three, then forces a shorter jumper and misses. This is the most active he’s been off the bat. Melo finally gets involved, missing a three, a lay-up and a turnaround. Hamann cans a three for Germany, going ahead 11-6.

• The German zone is working early, until Melo attacks in transition and gets to the line.

• Hinrich and Wade check in, and Hinrich immediately steals an inbounds pass and gets it to Bron for yet another ill-advised jumper, this time over Dirk. Team USA pulls to within 11-10.

• ESPN gives us a quote from Germany coach Dirk Bauermann about competing against Team USA: “You have to rip your hearts out of your chests, throw them on the court and compete until you drop dead.” Too bad he’s not a motivational leader-type.

• US takes a 12-11 lead on a runner off the glass from D-Wade. Germany rushes it back and Okulaja gets a tip-in to put Germany back ahead.

• Chris Bosh checks in and misses a dunk, then gets it back for a lay-in. Team USA still seems perplexed about how to attack the German zone. Joe Johnson checks in and picks his way open inside, where he misses a 12-footer.

• Germany is 5-9 from the field, Team USA is 5-16.

• Wade comes down and looks at the zone, then throws a pass over the top to Bosh for a dunk. That’s one way to attack it. Next time down Wade goes baseline and goes up for a shot which Dirk contests. The ball flies out of bounds, and the refs rule it’s out off of Wade. If that same play happened in the NBA Finals it probably would have been a flagrant two on Dirk and ten free throws for Wade.

• A little over two minutes to go in the first and things are getting chippy. Going up for a rebound, Okulaja plows over Wade from behind, and the ball is ruled out off of Wade. These refs are obviously ticked off about the NBA Finals. Where’s Dick Bavetta when we need him?

• 1:56 left, Germany is ahead 21-17 after a Dwight Howard free throw.

• Team USA runs their best halfcourt play, with Wade penetrating against the zone then throwing it out to Joe Johnson for an open three. I’m not sure that was a set play, but as Mike Vick would say, it should be.

• On the next possession, Dwight Howard rebounds a Johnson miss and pump fakes. Sven Schultze fouls him from behind, and moments later Dwight goes up for a layup, which the ref inexplicably counts, and the foul. The crowd starts whistling wildly. Dwight’s free throw gives the US a 23-21 lead.

• Wade misses a three at the buzzer to end the first US 32, Germany 21. The US is lucky to lead at this point. Dirk can’t make anything, the US scorers (especially Wade and Melo) aren’t shooting particularly well, but the USA’s second team (Wade, Hinrich, Dwight Howard, Joe Johnson and Bosh) are continuing to play well together, grabbing boards and forcing the tempo. Will the US keep up their second-quarter dominance?

• Carmelo starts the second half with a turnover, and CPaul comes in for Hinrich.

• Germany opens with a 4-0 run, then Chris Paul gets a baseline J to tie the game at 25. Germany comes down and their center, Femerling, dives for a loose ball and sweeps the legs from Elton Brand. Somehow a foul is called on Okulaja across the court. These refs are really all over the place, making bad calls for both teams. Half the time they call touch fouls inside, but Wade and Melo are repeatedly getting hacked inside without calls being made. Refs are making calls from across the court.

• Dirk misses another turnaround jumper, making him 1-for-6.

• I think we can all agree that Team Germany just hasn’t been the same since the end of the Shawn Bradley era.

• Okulaja picks up a weird offensive foul, and then LeBron drives and Demond Greene slides into him sideways and they call a foul on Bron. Did they get these refs from the D-League?

• Brand gets a dunk off a US miss to go ahead 27-25. US goes small with Hinrich and Paul together.

• Dirk finally gets a jumper to tie it at 27, and Hinrich sinks a long three to put the US ahead 30-27.

• Battier is doing a great job on Dirk, sticking with him on the defensive end and not giving him any open shots.

• Germany comes out in a soft 3/4-court zone, which Joe Johnson busts with a 3. Germany pushes back and Dwight slaps their layup out of bounds.

• Germany point guard Pascal Roller (he’s not French?) pushes the ball and elbows Wade in the mouth, which is of course Wade’s second foul.

• US is 4-of-17 on threes.

• Dwight catches in the post and drives to the rim, where he’s bumped hard by Schultze. Of course, Dirk is called for the foul, his third, with 3 minutes to go in the half. I’m pretty sure both coaches would prefer to do without these refs.

• The US is clinging to a 35-33 lead. Melo gets a junk bucket in transition to make it 37-33.

• Wade gets a steal in the open floor and misses a contested layup, then gets hit in the face again by Roller. No call. Wade goes down and stays down.

• Where’s Serge Zwikker? Okulaja hits two free throws to tie it at 37.

• Fran Fraschilla has said about a dozen times that Germany must be happy about the tempo. We know, dude. Chill with that.

• Okulaja tips in a miss to give Germany a 39-37 lead, and then Melo hits a three to put the US up 40-39. Maybe that’s what he needs to get going. Melo tips a ball out of bounds on the other end, and the ball is given to the US. Melo misses a three. So much for being hot.

• Halftime! And the US leads 40-39. Team US is 14-44 from the floor and 5-20 from three. Germany is 12-29 from the floor. If the US could get their shooting going this wouldn’t be close. They’re getting open shots, they just aren’t making them. The refs aren’t helping anything out, either, for Germany or the US. Neither team seems able to settle into a rhythm.

• As the USA goes out to start the second half, Mike D’Antoni gives them a vigorous pep talk and Coach K stands behind. Hopefully he’s telling them how to make three-pointers.

• US opens the second half with LeBron on Dirk, and LeBron rips him and gets a layup on the other end. Hinrich then gets a steal and gets it ahead to LeBron, who walks.

• Dirk misses a jumper and hacks Melo on his way by, and Melo is somehow called for a double-dribble. Then Hamann is called for a questionable charge against Hinrich. Where’s Collina?

• Femerling connects on an up and under move, and then Melo beats everyone back for a tomahawk dunk.

• Fraschilla says, “Hamann’s having a lot of trouble with Hinrich,” right as Hamann drives by Hinrich and gets a layup and a foul on Hinrich. 44-43, USA.

• Three from Melo makes it 47-43. Melo gets a steal and a dunk to make it 49-43. Brand gets a tip-in next time down to make it 51-43, USA’s biggest lead. Timeout, Germany. The US is doing a good job of attacking the German zone, but they aren’t making open jumpers. And Team USA’s defense is solid — Germany isn’t getting anything easy.

• Okulaja hits a baseline jumper to make it 51-45. Next time down, Demond Greene shoots a jumper and Bron hacks him across the arms, no call. Bron runs him over on the other end and is called for the charge. Melo nails a three in transition to give the US a 54-45 lead. 10 for Melo in the third with 5 minutes to go.

• Dwyane Wade throws up an airball from the top of the key. The US has missed a bunch of open jumpers from the top of the key, which is where Chauncey Billups would be key for the US. It’s a good thing the Japanese fans don’t seem to know about the airball chant.

• Wade comes back and drives in for two free throws, though he makes just one. USA takes it’s first 10 point lead, 55-45. Next time Battier and Joe Johnson miss threes. Germany’s Garrett drives in and is crushed by Brand, for no call. Joe Johnson drives into the lane and hits a runner to make it a 12 point lead. USA is 7-for-29 from three.

• German/French point guard Roller tries to shoot a jumper over Bosh, who snatches it away. Team USA comes back and Chris Paul flips up an alley-oop, which Bosh reverses in, and one. Carmelo — playing without his samurai ponytail for the first time — gives Bosh a high five. US takes a 60-45 lead.

• Dirk drives, takes the bump and gets a lay-in, and one. First time he’s done much in the third quarter — Battier and LeBron are pretty much shutting him down. This is the best defense LeBron has played in the tournament, probably because he’s not being out-quicked on the perimeter by a smaller guard.

• Chris Paul drives at Dirk and loses the ball, then clocks Dirk in the face. Dirk makes one of those painful expressions he makes whenever he’s fouled in the NBA. Next time down they isolate LeBron in the post, and Melo stands up on the bench and yells encouragement. Bron wheels in for a jumper. Next time down they run the same play, Melo stands up from the bench again, and Germany’s Garrett gets called for a foul. They don’t have anyone (other than Dirk, who has three fouls) who can handle Bron down low.

• If the US loses, can they hire Jurgen Klinsmann to coach?

• Out of a timeout, the US gets it to LeBron who drives and dishes to Paul for a three at the buzzer. The US leads by 15, 67-52, after three.

• Got an email from someone in the know asking why, if Fran Fraschilla is ESPN’s international expert, he continually mispronounces Dirk’s last name. Good question.

• Paul gets a steal and bucket, and the US goes up 17. Only way Germany wins is if Dirk gets red hot, but he seems oddly detached today.

• Bosh for three! Then he draws a charge on Okulaja!

• Germany runs a Dallas play, freeing up Dirk at the elbow. He turns and drives and Melo just rips him clean.

• Wade hasn’t had a great offensive game, but he’s had his best hustle game, getting to a lot of loose balls.

• Germany hits a three (by Herber, my man from West Virginia) to make it 72-61 with 6 minutes left. Joe Johnson responds with a three, then Melo gets a rebound and follow. Wade then misses and Brand comes flying in over about four people’s backs, but misses the dunk and somehow draws a foul on Germany.

• Nice stat from ESPN: Offensive rebounds, Germany 3, Team USA 20.

• Four minutes to go, and down 79-62, Germany appears to go into the four corners offense, burning the clock. Actually, they appear to have literally burned the clock, as the refs spend 5 minutes dealing with unspecified clock problems.

• Antawn Jamison makes his first appearance, and the announcers mention that Ed Cota is playing for Panama. Someone should make a YouTube highlight tape of Cota set to Van Halen’s “Panama.”

• Bron wets a jumper to give the US a 81-63 lead, and that’s about it with 2 minutes left, although someone calls a timeout, presumably to stretch it out even more. Howard and Jamison score, and the US ends up winning 85-65.

• Strange game all the way around. Germany seemed exhausted, even though they’ve had a few days off. Dirk finishes with 15, though even his 15 seemed uneventful. Wade had a great game, though he finished with 3 points. Bron (13 points) and Melo (19 points) were the US’s best offensive players, and they also both played tough defense on Dirk. You normally wouldn’t think a 20 point win was disappointing, and perhaps it shouldn’t be no matter what, but the US really had a bad game offensively — finishing an amazing 10 for 40 from threes. Ugh.

What saved the US was their defense. Early on they were gambling a lot, but they settled down and played solid, tough defense. Which is what they’ll have to continue to do if they want to get a medal.